Milltown Mel and His Shadow

February 2, 2011 – Groundhog Day

by Jeffrey Morris
Jeffrey Morris

Jerry Guthlein and Milltown Mel (photo by Jeffrey Morris)

MILLTOWN, NJ – Milltown businessman, Jerry Guthlein, was surrounded by his team of groundhog wranglers this morning, attempting to coach Milltown Mel out of his den and predict the weather.  Mayor Gloria Bradford read a proclamation declaring that Milltown Mel would be the official weather forecaster for Milltown. Guthlein, sponsored the event to benefit  Elijah’s Promise, a food bank located in nearby New Brunswick, and attendees were asked to bring a canned food item for donation.

Jeffrey Morris

A brightly dressed crowd looks on while Milltown Mel determines when spring will arrive. (photo by Jeffrey Morris)

Despite the icy weather, many Milltowners showed up for the event and were treated to hot coffee and donuts at the American Legion hall.  This is the third year that Guthlein has put on this event, and everyone seems to enjoy it, as well as the star of the show, Milltown Mel.

Oh! by the way, Mel’s prediction was for an early and warm spring. Let’s hope he’s right.

Jeffrey Morris

Milltown's groundhog wranglers included Ralph Jasionowski and Anthony Fama (photo by Jeffrey Morris)

Picture Perfect: Sunset Sunday in the NJ Suburbs

Growing up with a photographer father, there were always plenty of prints and slides around the house for me to admire.  As a little girl, I’d sometimes find a random slide laying on the table and curiosity would force me to pause, hold it up to the light, and see what it was all about.

"A Suburban Sky at Sunset" (by Jeffrey Morris)

It’s a challenge for me, even to this day, to see a photograph and not stop to appreciate it for a while.  I love the story or stories that every photograph contains.

Even when there are no people in the photograph, or no obvious action, there’s always a story.

Since we all know that a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll stop writing now and leave you with the story of this beautiful suburban New Jersey sunset by my father…

The Jersey Girl

Note:  you can click on the picture to view it larger.

Somewhere over the Paterson Falls

Looking out over the Great Falls in Paterson, NJ (Photo by Jeffrey Morris)

When it comes to our founding fathers, I am a (huge!) Thomas Jefferson fan.  Really.   It is very possible for me to go on (and on) about the variety of his talents and the numerous contributions he made to this country.  However, I must give credit where it is due and recognize Alexander Hamilton for the foresight he had in 1778 when he stood across from the Great Falls in Paterson, NJ and understood their potential role in the industrial opportunities of our developing country.  Even when many of his contemporaries (including Jefferson) insisted that the economy of the country be built by agricultural means, Hamilton felt that manufacturing was a better direction to take.  He was a driving force behind the development of the land surrounding the falls (named after New Jersey’s governor at the time, William Paterson) which became our country’s first industrial city.

Some of the history on display at the Great Falls Historic District Cultural Center (photo by Jeffrey Morris)

A lot has happened in the city of Paterson since Hamilton worked his magic there.  Visitors to the Great Falls Historic District Cultural Center, located across the street from the falls, can learn about how Paterson earned it’s internationally known nickname of Silk City, how it fared during the Great Depression, its ties to the motion picture and locomotive industries, how many residents from Paterson became members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the impact of the great fires, droughts, and flood cycles that have come through the city, and the way the city and its hydroelectricity (a green energy source) continue to thrive today.  Glen, the guide the day my parents and I visited, provided us with many insights he gained while growing up in Paterson, watching history happen first hand.  At the visitor center, you can pick up literature about the falls and other attractions in the surrounding area as well as find art from local artists on display and available for purchase.

On this early spring day when only a few trees began to bud, I stood in the same place that Hamilton had over two hundred years ago to experience the grandeur of the Great Falls myself.  From the impressive height of over 70 feet, water rushes with turbulent force and makes its way, crashing along basalt rocks, flowing into the Passaic River.  Forgetting for a moment how this water is responsible for providing power or its role in history, I found myself lost in the beautiful way the strong and graceful water danced.

Harold Jackson and Robert Denson take time to appreciate the beauty of the Great Falls in Paterson, NJ.

While standing across from the falls (under the watchful eye of a statue of Hamilton), we met a number of people who also came to enjoy their splendor.  Among the people we met were Harold Jackson, a Paterson native, and his uncle, Robert Denson.  Jackson, also known as DJ Smooth, is a local DJ and photographer.  Jackson shared with me that though he lives so close to the falls, he doesn’t often take the time to really appreciate them.  So this day, he took his camera and his uncle and decided to be a tourist, right in his hometown.  While Jackson was taking pictures of the falls (and seeking photography advice from my dad), his uncle told me a little bit of what it is like to live in Paterson.  Originally from Georgia, Denson is no stranger to hot weather, but he doesn’t mind the heat in Paterson since there is a special source of relief – the falls.  He told me that, “In the summertime, when it’s really hot, a lot of people walk over the falls to escape the heat.  It’s like air conditioning out here.”

Somewhere over the the Paterson Great Falls (photo by Jeffrey Morris)

Though the heat wasn’t unbearable at all that day, we still decided to check out what Denson was talking about.  We walked around to stand above the falls and appreciate them from a different view.  (In the pictures from our first view, on the platform next to Hamilton’s statue, you can see the bridge over the falls.)  Up on the bridge, the spray from the water below reached high above where we stood and in certain spots, it felt as if we were caught in a rainstorm.  I could see how on a very hot day, this would be the ideal place to go and find relief from the heat.  What I wasn’t expecting, however, was that the combination of the sunny afternoon and the fine mist in the air would create a beautiful rainbow.   While we stood on the bridge, with the falls rushing by below our feet, we were also standing over the rainbow! This fictional place we learned about many years ago from the song that Judy Garland sang in The Wizard of Oz, became very real.  And though your troubles might not all “melt like lemon drops” you may find, like Hamilton and many others did, that the Great Falls in Paterson, NJ is a place where “the dreams that you dare to dream, really do come true.”

The Jersey Girl

Note: In 1976 the Great Falls area was declared a National Landmark District.  In 2004 the Great Falls Historic District was declared a NJ state park.  Most recently, in 2009 President Obama signed the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park Act, designating the land as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System.  You can visit the falls year round, but it is recommended that you visit during the day, while it is light out.  There are plenty of picnic tables around the falls where you can eat lunch, chat with friends, or just sit back and enjoy the majestic view for a while.

The Great Falls in Paterson, NJ (photo by Jeffrey Morris)

Sources and additional information:
Great Falls Historic District Cultural Center, 973-279-9587,
History Walks in New Jersey, by L. Rosenfeld and M. Harrison

A trip to the Paterson Great Falls

I’m very happy to report that my dad (photographer, Jeffrey Morris) was able to accompany me on a trip to the Paterson Great Falls!

Having lived in New Jersey his whole life, my dad has traveled through most of the state at least once.  He is a wealth of knowledge about New Jersey history and has taken beautiful photographs around the state over the years.  He suggested the Great Falls as a place I needed to visit because he’s been there several times and knows it is both rich in history and a great place to take pictures.

With my parents at the Paterson Great Falls.

My mom was able to join us too, and we had a really fun time.

I will be posting our Paterson Great Falls visit soon!

The Jersey Girl